****¦*−−−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑− pathyā or mavipulā
[* * * ] tat-pūrvam pañcendriya-vaśoddhatān |
tapaḥ [* * ] vratino bhikṣūn pañca niraikṣata || 12.91
Then he saw the five who had retreated there before him,
Raised up by their dominion over the five senses
As they upheld their vows of ascetic practice –
He saw the five ascetic mendicants.
The text of today's verse is absent from the old Nepalese manuscript, and from the copies thereof upon which EBC based his text and translation.
EHJ, however, noted that the verse is present in both the Chinese and Tibetan translations. This means that the omission of today's verse from the old Nepalese manuscript must have been the mistake of some ancient copyist.
The Chinese translation has:
Samuel Beal's translation from the Chinese into English was published in 1883, before the translations from Sanskrit of both EBC (1894) and EHJ (1936).
Beal translated as follows:
When then he beheld these five,
virtuously keeping in check their senses (passion-members),
holding to the rules of moral conduct, practising mortification,
dwelling in that grove of mortification...
In a footnote to his Sanskrit text, EHJ offered his own translation as follows:
He saw the five bhikṣus,
virtuously restraining all the senses,
holding to the prohibitions, practising tapas,
dwelling in that penance grove...
If I try my own translation:
He saw those five bhikṣus,
gathering the sense organs through virtue,
keeping the precepts, doing ascetic practice,
dwelling in that forest of asceticism ...
The most difficult character in the Chinese is 攝 in the 2nd line. Pronounced SETSU in Japanese, and generally written nowadays in abbreviated form , 摂, it is the 摂 SETSU of 摂心 SESSHIN, where it expresses the devil that is concentration. A so-called 摂心 SESSHIN, “concentration of the mind,” is given in the dictionary as “a period of intensive zazen.” But I think that such a name for an “intensive” zazen retreat would have been news to Zen Master Dogen, who never used it. The traditional period for a summer retreat, Dogen strongly emphasized, was 90 days.
In itself, however, the character 攝 is innocent. The Nelson dictionary gives its meaning as “to act in place of,” or “carry on in addition to.” The online Japanese dictionary gives “act in addition to,” “surrogate” and “vicarious.” As a verb, 攝 can also mean to pick up or take, and hence, to gather, to gather together. Hence Beal translated 攝 as “keeping in check” and EHJ as “restraining.”
In any event, in noting “I have given in the text so much of this verse as seemed to me capable of certain reconstruction,” EHJ appears to have based his reconstruction mainly on the Tibetan translation. Thus EHJ rendered the Sanskrit text of today's verse:
[* * * ]tat-pūrvam pañcendriya-vaśoddhatān |
tapaḥ[* * ]vratino bhikṣūn pañca niraikṣata ||
In a footnote to his Sanskrit text, EHJ noted that for the 1st pāda, the Tibetan
de-nas de ni sṅar brten-zhiṅ
tatas tatpūrvam āśritān;
and for the 3rd pāda
mun-pas bsñen-paḥi brtul-zhugs-can
(The tamaḥ, darkness/ignorance, here must originally have been tapaḥ, ascetic practice, but I don't know whether it was EHJ's typo or a slip by the Tibetan translator.)
EHJ ommitted āśritān and saṁśraya from his Sanskrit text but included them in translation:
Then he saw five mendicants who had come there before him; they had taken vows on themselves and practised austerities, vaunting themselves of control of the five senses.
Judging from this translation, EHJ thus seemed to read the 3rd pāda as tamaḥ (acc. sg.) saṁśraya (abs.) vratinaḥ (acc. pl. m.). Whereas PO's Sanskrit text renders the 3rd pāda as one compound tapaḥ-saṁśraya-vratinaḥ (acc. pl. m.):
[tatas] tat-pūrvam [āśritān] pañcendriya-vaśoddhatān |
tapaḥ-[saṁśraya-]vratino bhikṣūn pañca niraikṣata ||
In this rendering of the 8-syllable śloka metre, which incorporates in square brackets EHJ's less certain conjectures from the Tibetan, the second line is bhavipulā, but the first line is not permitted by the rules of the śloka (aka anuṣṭubh) metre. Thus:
[tatas] tat-pūrvam pañcendriya-vaśoddhatān |
tapaḥ-[saṁśraya-]vratino bhikṣūn pañca niraikṣata || 12.91
By the rules of the śloka metre, as outlined here, the second half of the 1st pāda (i.e. syllables no. 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the verse's first eight syllables) have to be in one of the following combinations:
If the first pāda were to be amended based on EHJ's conjectures from the Tibetan, the amendment might look more like this:
[tata āśritān] tat-pūrvam pañcendriya-vaśoddhatān |
tapaḥ [saṁśraya] vratino bhikṣūn pañca niraikṣata || 12.91
But since EHJ himself did not go so far as to make this amendment, based on his own conjecture, I decided to follow EHJ in leaving the uncertain words blank. The combination tata āśritān, even if it is theoretically possible according to the rules of sandhi, does not look right. Perhaps EHJ understood that Aśvaghoṣa would have avoided any combination of words that lacked euphony.
What I think is reasonably sure is that the irony in today's verse centres on the sense conveyed in the 2nd pāda of the exercise of direct control over the five senses.
The truth, as Marjory Barlow told it, is that “We cannot control our feelings. Our feelings control us!”
What we can control, however, at least to some extent, is the decision to do or not to do.
Above all, and below all, by making the decision NOT to do, and keeping to that decision – so long as we really mean it, and are not kidding ourselves, as we are so easily prone to do – we can cut off the power of the senses at source. We can learn to deny the power of the senses their fuel. Or at least, failing that, until such time as the fuel might be all spent, we can learn not to turn the ignition key.
Today's verse, then, is ostensibly about the famous five bhikṣus who lived in ancient India at the time of the Buddha. But below the surface I think Aśvaghoṣa is really concerned not so much with historical detail as with the moment of practice, in which ever-present danger stems from the power of another famous five. Those five, in short, are:
- the ears (vestibular-auditory sense),
- the eyes (visual sense),
- the nose (olfactory sense),
- the tongue (sense of taste),
- the body (tactile sense).
When the six senses are listed – as for example in the Heart Sutra's 眼耳鼻舌身意
GEN-NI-BI-ZESSHIN-I, those six are enumerated (following the order in the Heart Sutra) as
- 眼 the eyes (visual sense),
- 耳 the ears (vestibular-auditory sense),
- 鼻 the nose (olfactory sense),
- 舌 the tongue (sense of taste),
- 身 the body (tactile sense, and kinaesthetic sense, whose main inputs are muscle spindles, tendon organs, and joint receptors).
- 意 the mind (compound sense of proprioception).
In my own listing of the five senses I put the ears before the eyes because, developmentally thinking, the vestibular system is so precocious and so fundamental.
tataḥ: ind. then
āśritān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. attaching one's self to , joining ; having recourse to , resorting to as a retreat or asylum , seeking refuge or shelter from ; inhabiting , dwelling in , resting on , being anywhere , taking one's station at
tat-pūrvam: ind. before him
pañcendriya-vaśoddhatān (acc. pl. m.): raised up by their dominion over five senses
pañcendriya: the five senses
vaśa: m. authority , power , control , dominion
ud-dhata: mfn. raised (as dust) , turned up ; lifted up , raised , elevated , high ; enhanced ; puffed up , haughty , vain , arrogant ; abounding in , full of ; stirred up , excited , agitated
tapaḥ-saṁśraya-vratinaḥ (acc. pl. m.): observing vows of devotion to ascetic practice
tapas: n. ascetic practice
saṁśraya: m. conjunction , combination , connection , association (ifc. " joined or connected with ") , relationship or reference to (ifc. " relating to " , " referring to "); going or resorting or betaking one's self to any person or place (loc. or comp.) ; a refuge , asylum , shelter , resting or dwelling-place , residence , home (ifc. " residing with " , " living or dwelling or resting in or on ") ; devotion to , attachment to (ifc. " devoted or attached to ")
vratin: mfn. observing a vow , engaged in a religious observance &c
tapaḥ (acc. sg. n.)
saṁśraya = abs. saṁ- √ śri: to join or attach one's self to , go for refuge or succour to , resort or betake one's self to , cling to for protection , seek the help of (acc.)
vratinaḥ (acc. pl. m.): mfn. observing a vow , engaged in a religious observance &c
bhikṣūn (acc. pl.): m. beggars, mendicants
niraikṣata = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect nir- √ īkṣ: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe